Choose your challenge, don’t forget to include the name of the challenge.
Challenge 1: Poker and Dragons
Many RPGs, for some reason, have gambling mini-games in the form of an in-game casino. Sometimes, these games are exact copies of real-world gambling games like Poker, Blackjack, and Roulette. However, in a fantasy world, it can help player immersion to give these games an exotic twist—something that has familiar elements, but is also unique and original. Such a game can be implemented in a video game, and can also be used in a tabletop RPG. (“Your party enters the inn to rest. You spot a group of friendly looking travelers playing some kind of card game over in the corner…”)
For this challenge, start with Poker. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of poker variants (Draw, Stud, Texas Hold ‘Em, Hi-Lo, etc.), and you can choose whatever version suits you or create your own if you want.
To this game, add some four-sided dice (any number of dice, but at least two). These dice must be part of the play of the game. Modify the rules of the game, as appropriate, to include these new components.
Remember, your game should be familiar enough to be instantly recognizable as a Poker variant, but different enough to feel otherworldly.
A basic deck of cards
A pile of four-sided dice
A complete set of written rules for your playable game
If you are unfamiliar with many Poker variants, read the rules of at least three different kinds and play them in a group. You can find rules online or in books like Hoyle’s Rules of Games, or you can find friends or colleagues who can teach you.
Answer key questions about the game. What elements of Poker do you feel you need to keep, and what mechanics can be changed or discarded to give it a more fantastic feel? How can you integrate dice into the game? How do you determine who wins each hand? What are the different steps players go through during the play of each hand?
Playtest and iterate.
Try playing the game in a group. Are your mechanics fun and interesting? Do the dice add something to the experience, or do they feel tacked on? Experiment with different rules variants until you find one that is sufficiently compelling.
After writing the rules down, play a few hands to make sure that you didn’t leave any details out of the rules.
Your rules should include the following:
Setup. How does each hand begin?
Progression of play. What is the order that things happen in each hand?
Betting. At what points do players wager money? What are the mechanisms for doing so?
Determining winner(s). Who gets the money that is wagered? Under what conditions and when?
Choose a different card game than Poker. Games like Rummy, Euchre, and Pitch are good candidates, but there are literally hundreds of card games that could be used.
Instead of dice, choose a different component. Add a second deck of cards. Or add (or remove) the jokers. Or play with a deck from a different game instead of a standard Poker deck. Or add a single 20-sided die instead of several four-sided dice. You get the idea.
Instead of adding components like dice, add a new rule. For example, all players are dealt three hands instead of one. Or players are dealt a different number of cards, and Poker hands are made from four or six cards instead of five. (This would require you to change what the winning hands are and what their relative ranks are.) Or there are two pots instead of one, and they have different functions during gameplay. Or something else—use your imagination.
Add “instants” to the deck, allowing you to steal cards from other players, swap hands, or draw again.
Challenge 1: What Do They See?
By this point, you may have read Patrick Dugan’s review of Passage that appeared earlier in this chapter. If you flipped through the chapter to get to the challenges, don’t go back and read it now. In this case, it’s not a bad thing.
For this challenge, it’s your thinking and not your design skills that are going to be pushed. Your goal is to play Passage and determine why so many high-profile, established game designers think it is a work of art. In your analysis, consider your reactions to the game as you play it, and consider how you play.
Internet connection to download Passage (available from http://hcsoftware.sourceforge.net/passage/)
Discussion and personal reflections on Passage
Download and play Passage.
Without reading the artist’s statement of purpose or other thoughts on the game, download Passage and play the game several times. Keep a pencil and paper with you to record thoughts that you have on the game.
What is art?
Think about your own preconceptions and definitions of what makes an original work “art” (or not). Consider also other views of what “art” is, such as those discussed earlier in this chapter.
Interpret the intent.
Consider the reactions you had while playing Passage. What did you feel? What were you thinking of? Consider the author. What do you think Jason Rohrer was trying to say with this game, if anything? Was he making a statement about some aspects of the human experience? Were there particular emotions that you think he wanted the player to feel?
Apply your definition.
Is Passage a work of art in your opinion? Would you consider it “fine art” or “high art”? Why or why not? If your answer is no, go back and read Patrick Dugan’s review and search the Web for other similar reactions (if you have not already done so). You do not have to agree with them, but at least try to understand why the matter is open to debate, and do your best to understand the other side.
Explore another art game and your reactions to the same. The following games are recommended:
flOw, playable for free online at http://intihuatani.usc.edu/cloud/flowing/
Cloud, downloadable for free at http://intihuatani.usc.edu/cloud/
Knytt, downloadable for free at http://nifflas.ni2.se/index.php?main=03Knytt
game game game game and again game, playable for free online at http://www.secrettechnology.com/gamegame/agame.html